The least talked about 2017 Baltimore Ravens draft pick has been Chuck Clark, a sixth-round pick and Baltimore’s final selection.
With little luck by the Ravens in rounds six and seven in recent years, it is natural to have doubts about the long-term viability of the former Virginia Tech safety. Clark comes to Baltimore as a rather unknown prospect who was a four-year contributor for the Hokies.
Despite being a full-time starter for his final three seasons, Clark managed to go about his college career fairly unnoticed, contributing on occasion but never standing out. Coming to Baltimore, Clark also faces the task of competing against a rather crowded secondary, and is far from guaranteed a spot on the final 53-man roster.
In fact, as of today, Clark is likely the lone Ravens draft pick who is on the outside looking in for a coveted roster spot. At safety, the Ravens have three presumed roster locks in Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson and Lardarius Webb. Another assumed lock with a strong training camp is Anthony Levine, a do-it-all secondary type who has no true defined position, but has played safety in the past.
That leaves Clark with an uphill battle to make the team, and he quite frankly either needs a stellar training camp or an injury to occur to the competition for him to solidify his roster spot. Clark is by no means a marginal talent; he simply enters a team with plenty of talent already in place.
With that said, let’s take a look at where Clark stands out and where he needs to improve as the start of training camp looms.
Clark’s best attribute is his overall instincts, particularly close to the line of scrimmage. His skill set comes off as that of a potential in-the-box safety in the NFL because of his knack for finding the ball carrier, and more importantly, consistently wrapping up.
With the ability to sift through an offensive line, find the ball, and make a play, Clark should be able to find a home in the NFL close to the line of scrimmage. He played a fair amount in coverage in college, however his most consistent aspect of his game was his continuous impact close to the line.
In coverage, Clark flashed the ability to be an instinctive back-end safety, coming in to make a play from the last line of defense.
As a pure back-of-the-defense safety, Clark has the coverage talent to contribute (however, as noted, he can make much more of an impact close to the line). Unfortunately for Clark, though, NFL safeties are also expected to play in man coverage.
While instinctive in some aspects of the game, Clark was inconsistent in college when it came to finding the ball in one-on-one coverage.
Granted, as a safety in the NFL, Clark will play more off coverage than man-to-man, however it would make Clark a more viable roster candidate if he had the ability to consistently fend for himself at cornerback.
Whether it is locating the ball or cutting on a short route, Clark still has work to do in man coverage.
Overall, the positive aspects of Clark’s game make him an intriguing prospect, especially since his innate tackling ability should net him some positive plays on special teams. In a normal year, Clark would likely be a roster lock given his potential to be a consistent third safety for the Ravens.
However, the Ravens are in a rare year where the overall talent in the secondary is of higher quality, and Clark will need to stand out, particularly in coverage (while maintaining his tackling ability at the next level), during training camp and the preseason in order to make the team.
GIFs c/o Draft Breakdown